- By Dennis Petrone
- Photos Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
Whoa! It’s finally here after eight months of edge-of-your-seat trailer teasing. The ultimate, guitar-strumming, crowd-chanting, rock bio-pic: BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY. Cue the broad-beamed spotlights, strap on the electric guitar and crank up the bass. Freddie Mercury (as brilliantly casted to Rami Malek) and his signature four-octave vocal range in all its glamour and gravitas will own theaters and the hearts of theatergoers this month nationwide.
From Director Bryan Singer (best known for directing much of the X-Men franchise and The Usual Suspects), and written by Anthony McCarten (The Theory of Everything and Darkest Hour) and Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon), Bohemian Rhapsody is part concert in a movie theater, part celebration of Freddie Mercury’s life. The band’s two surviving members, guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, are both producers on the film, ensuring Mercury and the band’s legacy stayed true. And at two hours and 14 minutes, with over 80 cast members including Rami Malek (Mr. Robot), Ben Hardy (X-Men: Apocalypse), Mike Myers (Austin Powers), Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones) and Aaron McCusker (Dexter) just to name a few, this movie is immense is every way. Big performances. And even bigger sound. An original cast recording was overlaid on original tracks with Malek singing his heart out on set to create an authentic voiceover experience.
Yes, Queen, the British rock band that formed in the 1970s and broke convention ushering in glam as a sound and persona, introducing operatic falsetto onto mainstream radio, opening up popular music to what would eventually become established genres such as progressive, symphonic, hard rock, arena rock and even funk. Queen, one of the world’s best-selling music groups, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner. Queen with 25 Top 10 songs, the second highest in British history behind only the Beetles. Queen, creator and purveyor of dozens of ‘top-of-my-playlist’ songs across several generations. “Bohemian Rhapsody, “We Will Rock You,””We Are The Champions,””Under Pressure,””Somebody To Love,”Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” and “Radio Ga Ga” just to name a few of the best.
But if Queen the band were the body, Queen’s front man Freddie Mercury would undoubtedly be its heart. Born of Parsi decent having grown to his teenage years in Zanzibar and India before moving to London with his family as a teenager, Mercury didn’t just break convention, he shattered it. He had grit and tenacity having taken music lessons most of his life and forming his first band at age 12. He had natural talent with his now-famous four extra incisors he credited for his supernatural sound and four-octave vocal range (think opera house-sized mouth). Mercury stayed true to his musical genius and vision. Disc jockeys thought his music too out there. Producers thought him too camp. But song after song, album after album, he proved them wrong. He wrote 10 out 17 of the songs on Queen’s most famous album, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and six from Queen II which incorporates multiple key changes and complex material; by contrast most of the others on that album generally contained just a few chords each. But somehow for so many, Mercury represented more than just his music. He represented a transcendence of moment and space.
So why this movie now? Because 25 years have passed since Freddie Mercury’s passing from complications due to AIDS? Because it’s almost 50 years since the band first formed? What makes Queen so timeless? Why is a global tour starring front man Adam Lambert as Mercury that started in 2011 still going strong after seven years, having just completed a three-week, sold-out residency in Las Vegas? Perhaps Mercury left a clue in one of his most famous lyrics from “We Are The Champions”: “”But it’s been no bed of roses, no pleasure cruise. I consider it a challenge before the whole human race, and I ain’t gonna lose.” Freddie Mercury is and always will be a champion.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” opens on November 2nd.